Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Developing a creative community
At the park - oil crayon ( year 5)
Art doesn’t seem to rate very highly along side the 'high tech' glamour of all the promises of the ICT revolution. In my mind art remains one of the most important activities students become involved in, dealing, as it does, with personal expression.
A well it provides an ideal opportunity for the teachers to come alongside the students and enter into dialogue, perhaps offering feedback and advice which, if the relationship is honest, the student may wish to ignore. As Elwyn Richardson, author of ‘In The Early World’ once said, ‘the teacher has to be a judge but not too good a judge!’ Central to Elwyn's work was his profound respect for the emerging abilities of his students; he drew out the best in them and developed their natural talents. Students, he believed, taught him as much as he taught them – it was based on respectful relationships.
This simple, but difficult, art should be central to teaching at all ages but it too often gets subverted by those who want to teach people things that they all too often don’t want to know.Following this desire to teach comes testing, assessment and accountability, all destructive to creativity. Creativity is also subverted by imposing criteria and using exemplars – if creativity were only so easy.
Centuries ago the Florentine master Cimabue came across a young shepherd boy drawing sheep.He was attracted by the talent for drawing the boy exhibited and he asked the boy if he wanted to be his apprentice. The boy was Giotto. This little story has a lot to do with learning as Giotto in turn befriended other artists who were seminal in the artistic Renaissance. This is how ideas spread.
And why was Giotto drawing sheep? He was drawing sheep because it was part of his everyday experience just as a child today should draw aspects of his or her environment that attract them.
Children begin this need to express themselves (to make their 'marks') from an early age. Their drawings reflect not only what they see but also their ‘stage’ of drawing. They draw what they know rather than what they see, articulating their current knowledge and understanding. They can be helped to look closely and persevere but what they know is what they know and they can’t be rushed to the next stage.
When we rush children to get them to learn what we think they should (according to 'our' curriculums) the trouble begins. Teachers would be better advised not to rush students through any learning situation but rather assist them in getting as much out of any experience as they can; doing fewer things well. Producing art takes time and this time allows for genuine dialogue to happen and through dialogue relationships deepen.
These are the ways to develop creativity: recognize the beginning of talents; let students learn through being part of an artistic community as apprentices; provide plenty of dialogue about whatever interests the child; and help the learners achieve something that genuinely surprises them!
Creating a creative learning community, one which allows all the students talents to flourish, must be the aim of all teachers. Teachers who understand this focus their energy on creating the conditions to encourage students to follow their interests and express what they find out in art, words, or whatever. Creativity is hard to define but basically it is the capacity to make imaginative and original connections in order to provide original solutions.
All people are creative. Life is creative. Mankind has been capturing experiences since the art seen on cave walls. Art is every where and ought not to be hidden away as an isolated subject or art gallery. We need to think about how to make our schools creative environments, to utilize art in its many forms, as a way to give meaning to children’s experiences. People like Elwyn Richardson have shown us the way.
All citizens ought to value their own creativity and admire the talents of others but, for too many, their schooling has cut them off from their own creativity let alone the creativity of, the often isolated, artists.
Education has taken the child world apart. Artist expression and creativity is a way to put life back together again.
Like a child drawing, or Giotto in the field, it is about responding to ones experience. The more people involved in creativity in a community the better.
The arts are all about valuing your own ideas, having a go and to take the risks to express what you experience in your own way. Today we have a wide choice of media to be creative. Increasingly it is creativity and the arts that will mark out twenty-first century communities and countries.